I got three of your letters on your birthday last night. I'd been trying all day to sit down and write a few lines, and then the barrage of mail came. I got letter #3 late last week, and #2, 4, and 5 yesterday.
I'll try to answer some of your comments first, then I'll ramble on for awhile...
Rail study appears to be meeting with a variety of successes and failures. What is the time table looking like on that thing? What kinds of things are you finding out? Tom Daniels' late resignation may favor your chances for tenure-track opening, but how do you feel about it? You can't put your money on the Urban Institute, but does your love-hate relationship with KSU continue? I get a really strange feeling whenever you talk about leaving. It's like "Wow, Bob is leaving." I know that seems REALLY irrational -- maybe I haven't adjusted to the reality of being gone myself. Classes probably began today. It's a strange feeling not being there.
As I mentioned in an earlier letter, I would very much like to see you next summer. Canary Islands is a good idea -- I talked to one Volunteer who did it last summer. Another (probably less expensive) idea is vacation in Sierra Leone. Let's keep talking about it.
As I may have mentioned earlier, you may opt to use the international mail address. It's probably faster, and I haven't heard of too many problems. Thanks for the stamps, I think. When I opened your latest letter, out popped my very own Desert Shield/Storm sticker set. So now I, too, can honor those who served.
I hope the Kansas City team is able to look back favorably on the summer's events. It certainly sounds like they had some adventures. How would you rate their success? How does their success compare to last year?
I'm glad to hear of all the progress on the dissertation. I hope your latest trip to Michigan was a good one. I'm sure your committee / major professor was pleased to hear of Mr. Chang's logistic regression correlation between survey results and (lagging?) economic indicators. Then again, I'm sure you were pleased when you found out about it yourself. It won't be long now. Certainly, the great majority of the work is complete.
If you've held true to your goals, you have joined the ranks of the non-smoking. Congratulations. I'm proud of you. Swimming, good eating, and church are all worthy, too, but too much virtue at once can be a real shock to the system. Be careful that you don't overdose on health.
Well, I hope you spent your birthday well, and I hope classes are progressing well. Life here, too, goes on. In six days, we go to Freetown for the final phase of the training. I'm looking forward to eating a cheeseburger. In less than a week, I will officially become a Peace Corps Volunteer. That's a big deal. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with the letters PCV, more than I ever thought. It's not so much a matter of liberty, duty, or freedom -- those are parcel to nationalist rhetoric -- as it is a matter of Responsibility to the well-being of Others in the world. As you and I have discussed before, I believe that we have a Responsibility to use the advantages and talents that we have to serve others. It's the big "R".
Anyway, I'll be pretty glad to be done with training. It's been pretty intense. This week and last, we've been doing our practical training at Makeni. The afternoons this week have been reserved for instruction in indigenous languages. Me and another guy have been studying Limba. This stuff makes French look real damn easy. I figure if I can pick up a little Limba in Kamakwie, fine. I just want to "get through" the technical instruction.
Well, it's 1:54 and I've got 4 hours of Limba beginning at 2:00. Ugh. I'll sign off for now. It's 8:54 AM there at home.
One request: If you've completed Skinny Legs and All or don't reasonably think you ever will, can you send it to me? No big hurry. Book swapping is popular among Volunteers, and I think this would be a good one for some of the folk here.
Keep after it, Bob. Your little brother in Africa thinks of you a lot.
High we exalt thee,
Realm of the free --
Great is the love we have for thee.
Firmly united, ever we stand,
Singing the praise O native land.
We raise up our hearts and our voices on high --
The hills and the valleys re-echo our cry.
Blessing and peace be ever thine own,
Land that we love our Sierra Leone